03:17PM, Thursday 13 July 2017
A coroner was unable to rule if a nursery worker whose body was pulled out of the River Thames took her own life or died accidentally.
An inquest heard today (Thursday) that Cheryl Manning, who was 53 when she died, did not reply to her partner’s calls on the evening of Friday, January 13.
The following morning, firefighters retrieved her body from the water at Boulters Lock in Lower Cookham Road and she was pronounced dead by an air ambulance doctor.
The part-time qualified practitioner was employed at Mulberry Day Nursery in Boyn Hill Avenue, and colleagues said she had not been herself the day before she was found dead, the inquest heard.
They were ‘understandably shocked and saddened’ to hear of her death.
Ms Manning lived in Lassell Gardens with her partner and two children.
Her mother, Elizabeth Scott, was at the inquest. Her statement, read out at the Berkshire Coroners Court in Reading Town Hall, said: “Cheryl was in an unhappy relationship with a controlling partner and was feeling low.”
Ms Scott added her daughter would often go to the lock to gather her thoughts.
The inquest heard Ms Manning had messaged a heart emoji to members of her family on the Friday, and had also called her partner’s grandmother to thank her for Christmas presents.
She had tried to order food from Sainsbury’s, but this was ‘declined due to insufficient funds’, a report from Thames Valley Police said.
Later, she was seen just before 11pm at Boulters Lock, standing ‘completely motionless’ on a concrete path near the river, according to a written statement from passer-by Helen Tutin.
In another statement, Lexi Dobson, who went to open the lock at 10.10am, said as the ‘water was going down, the gate would not open’.
“I looked down in the water and saw a human body.”
A rucksack, which was retrieved out of the water, included Ms Manning’s ID and, among other items, a letter from a debt enforcement agency.
A post-mortem ruled Ms Manning’s cause of death was drowning. Her family did not believe she could swim.
The assistant coroner, Alison McCormick, asked Ms Manning’s family if she had been ‘unhappy enough’ to take her own life.
Daughter Chloe Theobald said: “My mum would not have left me.
“She loved us so much.”
A toxicology analysis detected no drugs in her system, and her GP history showed she was not on ‘any current medication’ and ‘no relevant active problems’ were noted.
Ms McCormick said she could not record a verdict of suicide as the evidence did not meet the burden of proof required.
However, she decided she could not rule the death an accident on the balance of probabilities.
She recorded an open conclusion.
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